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Root town clerk apologizes to same sex couple over marriage license refusal

Root town clerk apologizes to same sex couple over marriage license refusal

Town settles possible legal case over marriage license denial
Root town clerk apologizes to same sex couple over marriage license refusal
Root Town Clerk Sherrie Erikson reads a brief statement during the Town Board Meeting Wednesday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

ROOT -- Root Town Clerk Sherrie Eriksen on Wednesday night publicly apologized for refusing to issue a marriage license to a local same-sex couple.

The brief statement read by Eriksen at a Town Board meeting called the matter an "unfortunate incident."

"I'm sorry for any harm or inconvenience my actions caused the couple. Thank you," she said.

Her statement was greeted by applause from a roomful of people, most of whom appeared to be supporters of the couple, Dylan Toften and Thomas Hurd.

Eriksen's statement:

Eriksen's statement was a requirement of the settlement the town reached with the couple, who went public after Eriksen refused to issue a marriage license to them last July 30  -- an incident that briefly thrust the rural Montgomery County town with barely 1,700 residents into an unwelcome spotlight.

The couple live in Sprakers and sought a marriage license from the town of Root, which Eriksen refused to issue, even though New York state had legalized same-sex marriage.

The couple, who later obtained a marriage license in Cobleskill and were married, had previously called for Erisksen’s resignation or removal from the elected office.

The settlement put before the Town Board on Wednesday included a cash payment, but the amount wasn't available. Beforehand, the parties involved either wouldn't comment or couldn't be reached for comment.

The couple last fall filed a notice of claim against the town, a potential precursor to a lawsuit. The settlement eliminates the possibility of further legal action,

"The settlement agreement has not been finalized as of yet," Thomas Hurd-Toften said in a Facebook message to The Gazette prior to the meeting. "Part it is that a statement will be made at the meeting tonight. We will wait for that before making any comments."

In a separate public Facebook post Hurd-Toften wrote: "Those who have been following since July. We should be getting closure tonight."

When Hurd and Toften visited the clerk for a marriage license, Eriksen told them they needed to schedule an appointment with her deputy and return another day. They immediately went public with their complaint of discrimination, saying she also told them she didn’t sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Town Attorney Robert Subik later confirmed she cited a religious objection to signing off on same-sex marriage licenses.

Subik and other town officials have contended that she did not deny the couple a marriage license, only asked them to return with an appointment with her deputy.

The state Division of Human Rights has also opened an investigation into whether the couple was discriminated against.

 

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